Chicago Cubs: Can the Cubs continue to win without Brandon Morrow?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have continued to win games without their closer for much of the season. But if he is unable to come back at full strength, the team could be in trouble come playoff time.

The Chicago Cubs just keep on rolling. Since acquiring second-baseman Daniel Murphy from the Washington Nationals, the Cubs have gone 7-1 and have scored a whopping 49 runs during that stretch. This comes after scoring just five runs in their previous five games.

In addition to their offense taking off, the Cubs have enjoyed a string of quality starts from their rotation. From Cole Hamels continued dominance, to Kyle Hendricks regaining his form, the team looks to have finally found their rhythm at just the right time. However, one glaring weakness remains within the bullpen, and that is the lack of a true closer.

Brandon Morrow, 33, signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the Cubs in the offseason, becoming the fourth different closer the Cubs had in the last four years. After a solid start to the year, Morrow suffered from a few injuries that have shelved him for most of the second half. The hard throwing righty has a 1.47 ERA this season to go along with 22 saves, but hasn’t appeared in a game since July 15.

While the bullpen has performed admirably for much of the season, it’s hard to imagine that success continuing into the postseason without the presence of guy who can come in and shut the door. The threat of Morrow looming in the bullpen is definitely something the Cubs will need come October.

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During Morrow’s time on the DL, Pedro Strop has taken over closing duties. For the season, Strop has a 2.50 ERA and 10 saves in 14 chances. Although his numbers are nothing to sneeze at, you’d definitely prefer to keep him in the role he’s been in for much of his tenure with the Cubs. High leverage strikeout situations, with not too long of a leashthat is where Strop is most effective.

The Cubs know just how important it is to have a dominant closer come playoff time. It’s the very reason why they pulled the trigger on a trade to send their top-prospect at the time, Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees in exchange for closer Aroldis Chapman. It’s also why they brought Wade Davis in the following year. Closers are extremely valuable in baseball, and they are that much more important in the playoffs.

Morrow is no stranger to postseason baseball as he appeared in all seven of the World Series games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. For a Cubs team that is all too familiar with close games in October, they will need to be creative in their efforts to add more depth to the bullpen, if in fact their closer is unable return at 100 percent.

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In this new era of baseball, bullpens have a much larger impact on the outcome of games than ever before. Theo Epstein has done well to ensure that the team has wealth of options in the pen to cover for a loss such as this. But Morrow was brought in to be the guy, and the Cubs are easily a better team when he is healthy. Closing games by committee is just fine and dandy in the regular season. But beyond that, the Cubs will need their man.